Well, since I wrote my first blog back in March this year it’s been a very busy summer at Driftwood, both from a visitor and from a Thompson & Morgan trial perspective! We have opened the garden 17 times this summer, 10 garden openings and 7 for a local art festival, Artwave! During that time we have seen an amazing 2800 visitors see this tiny plot on the south coast!
Not only did it feature in The Mail on Sunday back in June (photo above and one below of me taken by Mail photographer Russell Sach) but was also the featured garden in Sussex Life magazine in July. However the icing on the cake has been the £31000 raised for charity over the last 4 years and £12500 of that in 2013 alone!
Thompson & Morgan have sent me a whole raft of plants this summer but some were not as successful as others in my crammed coastal plot. Back in August, T&M’s New Product Development Manager, Michael Perry and photographer Helen came to see how some of the trial plants were doing in my exposed garden.
These are some of my personal favourites that I would heartily recommend as they have really done well and received lots of comments from visitors! Some that looked amazing at the time of Michael’s visit were the Peruvian tree lily, alstroemeria ‘Everest Collection’ a hardy Perennial, new for 2013. The plugs arrived in April and as promised on the pack, created a floral sculpture on the patio as shown. Support was advised and I used 2 large semicircular rusted frames and ended up with this most impressive display.
Meanwhile, the half-hardy dahlia “Fire & Ice” that arrived in March provided these beautiful red and white striped blooms with a bright golden eye that really livened up the garden, recommended for borders but due to lack of space, mine went in to a pot and still looked amazing.
A third plant that was still looking great for their visit was the wild carnation, dianthus picotee with its beautiful red edged petals! A beautiful flower that Michael missed was the outstanding tree lily ‘Leopard Lion Heart’, received in May and flowering in mid July. Three very erect stems were produced that generated over 30 blooms! Amazing!
The gorgeous pelargonium, rosebud geranium, ‘Pink Sybil’, that arrived on the 25th April has looked divine throughout the summer, as has the delicate foxglove ‘Dalmatian Peach’, (digitalis purpurea, a hardy biennial) with exquisite peachy trumpets that arrived on the 15th March. The unusual colour makes this statuesque foxglove particularly eye-catching in cottage gardens and woodland borders, mine however is surplanted beneath a thinning escalonia.
Just starting to flower and form fruit is the lovely physalis Golden Berry also known as the Cape gooseberry. It is an exciting addition to the kitchen garden with tall, bushy plants producing these golden berries enclosed in attractive papery cases, similar to Chinese lanterns. The berries, which are produced from early autumn, are similar to a ripe cherry tomato in texture and the flavour is sweet but tart, perfect in fruit salads, jams or as an eye-catching garnish! Physalis peruviana is half-hardy so is normally grown as an annual plant in the UK. Due to lack of space though, and not having a kitchen garden, I have had to put mine in the borders but they still look great!
So all the above are trial plants received from Thompson & Morgan but I have also bought some myself to add to the garden! I purchased a new twist on a much-loved garden favourite, ‘Buzz’™, which is the world’s first patio buddleja! These attractive, compact plants are loved by bees and butterflies, (of which there have been many in the garden this summer) but won’t take over the garden. Buddleja ‘Buzz’™ is easy to grow and problem-free, believe me, with a super long-flowering period. Perfectly proportioned for patio pots and smaller gardens. Mine have looked stunning this summer, two in containers and one in the ground.
Another purchase this year has been the foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ digitalis, a half-hardy perennial. You can see how beautiful it has been in the garden this summer and unlike most foxgloves which are generally biennial, this half-hardy semi-evergreen is a true perennial so I will be able to enjoy its flowers for years to come.
Finally another plant I have been really pleased with is this althaea which came from Thompson & Morgan. There were 3 plants and they all look amazing in the garden, the beautiful delicate flowers have been much commented on!
It has been an extremely interesting year in the garden with the openings, art festival and trialling the many plants from Thompson & Morgan, something I hope to be doing again next year! Full details on all the plants I have trialled in 2013 can be found on my web site page www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk/T&M.html
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £164,500 for various charities in 12 years, £109,000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Publicity Officer for the National Garden Scheme in East & Mid Sussex. In 2023, Geoff was also crowned one of the 500 Coronation Champions.